How to Grow and Care for Melampodium

melampodium flowers

The Spruce / Lacey Johnson 

The Malampodium genus, native to Central America, South America, and southern North America, includes several annual species that are known collectively by the common name malapodium. The two most common species of Malapodium are M. divaricatum (known as butter daisy, with golden petals and darker yellow-orange centers) and M. leucanthum (known as black-foot daisy, with white petals and yellow centers). These true annuals are known for their constant display of sunflower-like blooms that begin in May and continue until frost sets in. They are easy to grow and can survive a variety of conditions and locations where many other flowers struggle.

Melampodium is usually planted as a nursery-grown container plant or from seeds sown directly into the garden, as soon as the danger of frost has passed. Like many annuals, it is very fast-growing; even when planted from seed, it reaches flowering maturity within six to eight weeks.

Common Name Melampodium, butter daisy, black foot daisy
Botanical Name Melampodium spp.
Family Asteraceae
Plant Type Annual
Mature Size 6-24 in tall, 8-18 in. wide (varies by cultivar)
Sun Exposure Full
Soil Type Dry to medium moisture, well-drained
Soil pH Slightly acidic to slightly alkaline
Bloom Time Late spring to fall
Flower Color White, yellow/gold
Hardiness Zones 2 to 11 (true annual)
Native Area Central American, South American, southern North America
closeup of melampodium flower
The Spruce / Lacey Johnson 
melampodium flowers
The Spruce / Lacey Johnson  
butterfly on melampodium flower
The Spruce / Lacey Johnson  
melampodium in a garden
The Spruce / Lacey Johnson  

Melampodium Care

Considered an easygoing plant, melampodium will grow just fine in regular garden soil. However, it does require a good amount of sunshine, so just be sure to plant melampodium in a location with access to full sunlight. Your plants will also need plenty of water in the beginning, but once they're established, it's not a flower you'll want to overwater—in fact, this hardy plant prefers its soil on the drier side.

The other bit of good news is that melampodium also won't require a significant amount of pruning or deadheading. This is a low-maintenance plant that will continue to blossom on its own up until the first frost of the year. In many locations, melampodium will self-seed, so you can enjoy these flowers year after year.

Light

The melampodium plant will grow best in full sunlight (at least six hours daily), as this will encourage optimal flower growth and discourage the flopping that can occur when plants grow leggy in shady conditions.

Soil

This plant is native to areas with rocky soil, so it is well suited for nutritionally poor soils. But it will grow well in any well-drained soil, provided it is not overwatered.

Water

Although it is a drought-resistant and heat-tolerant plant, melampodium will grow best with regular watering—1/2 to 1 inch per week is suitable. But just be sure to allow the soil to dry out slightly in between waterings, as the plants don't respond well to soggy conditions.

Temperature and Humidity

These are truly warm-weather plants. Once they're established, melampodiums are drought tolerant and able to withstand the hottest temperatures with ease. Despite its toughness, melampodium is susceptible to growing powdery mildew when planted in certain humid areas. Proper sunlight can help prevent this problem, but if you do see mildew growing, pruning infected areas can prevent spreading.

Fertilizer

To keep your melampodium blooming all season long, consider adding a slow-release fertilizer or a general-purpose liquid fertilizer to your soil. This is most likely to be of benefit it poor, rocky soils. In rich garden soil, these plants often do fine with no feeding whatsoever.

Types of Melampodium

There are two common annual species of the Melampodium genus cultivated as garden plants: M. Divericatum (butter daisy), and M. leucanthum (black-foot daisy).

M. Divericatum and Cultivars

The native species is a 12- to 24-inch plant with golden orange petals and darker orange centers. In addition, look for these popular cultivars:

  • ´Derby´ has golden-yellow flower and grows to about 12 inches in height.
  • ´Jackpot Gold´ has darker golden-orange flowers, about 2 inches across. It is also a relatively short cultivar, topping out at 12 inches.
  • ´Lemon Delight´ has flowers that are bright lemon yellow. It grows 12 to 24 inches tall.
  • ´Medallion´ is a large cultivar, growing 24 to 36 inches, with golden yellow flowers.
  • ´Million Gold´ is a compact, 10-inch plant with bright yellow flowers.
  • ‘Showstar´™ is a 14- to24-inch plant with golden yellow blossoms.

M. Leucanthum

Know commonly as black foot daisy, Melampodum leucanthum is a bushy plant with small white daisy-like flowers and narrow, grayish-green leaves. A native of North America's Sonoran Desert, it is a favorite rock garden plant for native plant enthusiasts.

Pruning Melampodium

This is a self-cleaning plant that needs no dead-heading to continue producing flowers for the entire season. That said, you can clip off spent flowers if you want to limit the plant's habit of self-seeding. At the end of the growing season, you can pull the plants from the ground, or leave them in place for the benefit of finches and other birds that like to eat the seeds.

Propagating Melampodium

Like many annuals, melampodium is best propagated by seeds—either purchased or collected from dried flower heads. Vegetative propagation, such as rooting stem cuttings, is possible but usually not necessary, since this plant is so easy to grow from seeds (see below).

It is also quite easy to transplant volunteer seedlings that spring up in the garden from melampodium plants that self-seed.

How to Grow Melampodium From Seed

The seeds for melampodium are found clustered in the flower centers. Once spent flowers have dried, you can collect these seed heads and store them indoors until you're ready to plant them. Crush the seed heads to separate the plentiful seeds. They can be direct-sown into the garden after all danger of frost has passed in the spring, but for earlier flowers, start the seeds indoors seven to ten weeks before the last frost date. Seeds will germinate in one to two weeks if planted 1/4 inch deep in standard potting mix and kept at 68 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit in a bright location.

These plants will readily self-seed, so you may find that melampodium reliably returns year after year without any need for replanting. Learn to recognize the volunteer seedlings so you don't mistake them for weeds.

Potting and Repotting Melampodium

Since the melampodium plant likes dry conditions, it makes a fantastic container plant. Just be sure to initially plant them a light, well-drained potting mix, and be wary of overwatering. Although many garden plants require more frequent watering when grown in pots, melampodium will be fine with once-a-week watering. Any pot material will be fine but make sure the container has good drainage. Repotting is not necessary, as these are annuals that will be discarded at the end of the season.

Overwintering

These plants are generally just pulled from the garden and discarded at the end of the growing season, but you can also leave the in place into the winter for the benefit of seeds that will be eaten by birds or which will fall into the garden to sustain the colony by self-seeding.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

These plants are not susceptible to any notable insect problems, but they can be prone to powdery mildew in hot, humid climates. Give the plants plenty of space to improve air circulation and prevent this fungal disease.

How to Get Melampodium to Bloom

Both species of Melampodium will typically bloom from late spring until frost. If they fail to bloom as expected, it's almost always a matter of needing more direct sunlight. These plants will not bloom in deep shade, but otherwise, flowers are almost guaranteed.

Common Problems With Melampodium

The only notable problem with melampodium is its tendency to get leggy and flop over. This may happen in shady conditions, as stalks are struggling upward to get enough sunlight, but flopping can also be a problem in hot, sunny locations, where soil can become so dry that it fails to support the stalks. In these cases, staking the plants may be necessary.

FAQ
  • How is the plant best used in the landscape?

    Melampodium is an excellent plant for mixed border gardens in dry, sunny areas of the landscape. Deer are not fond of it, so it is a good choice where these browsing mammals are a problem.

    This daisy will attract butterflies, bees, and other pollinating insects, and its seeds provide food for goldfinches and other songbirds.

    Smaller varieties are great for container gardens.


  • I don't like to replant every year—are there perennial daisies I can consider?

    Yes. The aster (Asteraceae) family includes many perennial species of daisy. If you want a look similar to butter daisy, try a cultivar of marguerite daisy (Argyranthemum frutescens). For a perennial white daisy similar to black-foot daisy , try shasta daisy (Leucanthemum × superbum).

  • I prefer native plants—is there other North American daisies I can grow?

    Some of the best North American native plants with daisy-like flowers are found among the coneflowers (Echinacea spp.) and brown-eyed (or black-eyed) Susans (Rudbeckia spp.) These species are generally perennials, and you can find cultivars that closely resemble the Melampoium species.

Article Sources
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  1. Melampodium or Butter Daisy. Clemson Cooperative Extension.

  2. Melanmpodium or Butter Daisy. Clemson University Cooperative Extension.

  3. Melanmpodium or Butter Daisy. Clemson University Cooperative Extension.